Hwange National Park is considered to be one of Africa's finest wildlife havens.
Hwange, the oldest and largest game park in Zimbabwe, is renowned for its abundance and variety of wildlife species, including plenty of Africa's Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant).
Hwange Park is home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa, hosting thousands of elephants. Vast herds of buffalo and zebra also roam the park, as well as a very high concentration of giraffes. Hwange is home to many predators, including hyena and cheetah, and lions are commonly sighted on game drives. Rhino and the elusive leopard are also spotted on game viewing drives in the park.
All of Zimbabwe’s endangered species are found in Hwange Park, such as the rare Sable and Roan antelope species. One of the world’s largest populations of endangered African Wild Dogs is found in Hwange, among the over 100 species of mammals.
This vast game park also offers excellent bird watching opportunities, with its abundant and varied birdlife of about 400 bird species including 50 types of raptors. Birds include 47 migrating species from Europe and Russia, as well as Steppe Eagles, Buzzards, Kori Bustards, Crowned Cranes and Red Bishops.
The park covers an area of 5 656mi² (14,651km²) and lies at an average altitude of 3300 ft (1000m) above sea level.
Hwange has a 300mile (480km) road network, with many of the roads open all year and some closing during the rainy season when they get to boggy to navigate.
Hwange Park is characterised by the absence of permanent surface water, relying heavily on drilled boreholes to supply watering holes and pans with enough water to sustain the park's wildlife throughout the year. The game park is now scattered with a series of sixty artificial, yet natural looking, waterholes that are maintained year-round to ensure the survival of Hwange's thousands of animals.
This large national park covers diverse habitats, ranging from teak forests in the north to Kalahari scrub bush in the south and seasonal grass plains fringed with acacia trees and sparse mopane woodlands, as well as patches of ilala palms in between.
The national park is situated in the remote northwestern part of Zimbabwe, on the main road between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
It falls in the Hwange District, within the Matabeleland North Province, of northwestern Zimbabwe. Hwange is about an hours drive south of Vic Falls and close to the Zimbabwe borders with Botswana and Zambia. The park is located on the outer edges of the Kalahari Desert, in an arid and sparsely vegetated area.
Seasonal contrasts are very marked in Hwange, with dramatic changes taking place between the wet summers and dry winter seasons.
The best time to travel to Hwange Park for game viewing is in winter, from July to early November, when the wild animals congregate at the few remaining man-made waterholes. The vegetation also thins out in winter, which makes spotting game at the waterholes and shallow pans even easier. Winter days can get hot, but temperatures dip below freezing on some cold winter nights.
During the driest months of the year the game park looks inhospitable, with its cracked salt-pans, wilting scrub land and dried-up grass plains. There are some natural salt-licks that provide elephants with mud holes during the parched winter months. The artificial waterholes and pans in the park, are essential for the survival of Hwange's animals in the dry months, otherwise the area would indeed be inhospitable to the point of being uninhabitable.
During the hot summer rains from December to March the bush turns green and lush, but this makes game viewing more challenging as the wildlife disperses. The park receives a relatively low average annual rainfall of 22 to 25 inches (570-650 mm). In summer temperatures can soar up to 100°F (38°C), but the average temperature is between 65 and 83°F (18 and 28°C). The rich birdlife is most prolific during summer.
At the Hwange Wild Dog Project centre visitors can see the valuable work being done to rehabilitate and release orphaned and injured wild dogs back into the wild. African Wild Dogs are considered the most endangered carnivores in Africa. Get a closer look at these highly intelligent and social animals at the Hwange Wild Dog Centre, and learn more about these interesting canids.
This anti-poaching and research centre utilises a combination of art and conservation to help fund the rehabilitation of these rare African Wild Dogs.
It is estimated that there are only three thousand wild dogs surviving today, which makes a visit to the African Wild Dog centre a rare and unique wildlife experience.
Hwange was once home to the nomadic San (bushmen), hunter-gatherers who lived off the land and hunted migrating game. The San were displaced by other African tribes, who were in turn ousted. Chief Hwange of the Rozi tribe was ousted by Chief Mzilikazi and then and Chief Lobengula of the Matabele tribe, who took control of the Hwange area as their royal hunting grounds.
Then in the nineteenth century Europeans moved into the area, claiming the land and hunting the remaining game.
As a result the wild animals were pushed ever further into the inhospitable western parts of Zimbabwe, bordering Botswana, into an area set aside for hunting and farming.
Through a fortuitous twist of fate, the once-hunting-grounds were declared a game reserve in 1928. The area gained National Park status in 1949 forming Hwange National Park - the largest game park in Zimbabwe.
Use the Google map to explore Hwange National Park. Feel free to Print the Street Map when you're ready.